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Archive for the ‘Elimination Communication/Infant Potty Training’ Category

A friend of mine asked me, about 6 months ago, for a list of the top ten things I can’t live without with a new baby.  Fortunately I think she’s still actually pregnant.  Good thing it takes 9 months!

My answers will not include bouncers, swings, bottles, strollers and all the junk you are told you *have* to have to have a baby.  True– I used a swing and bouncer some (mostly for showers and dinner prep), and Azita switched between bottle and breast as I was still in college and pretty much a working/pumping mom.  But Ada never used a bottle, maybe once.

Azita hated all bouncers and swings, and Ada tolerated them for 15 minutes at a time, just enough for a shower or quick meal prep.  But once her tummy aches and food intolerances kicked in, unforetunately the swing didn’t soothe her at all.  I’ve heard of people whose kids adore swings or bouncers and that its a lifesaver.  For us, they took up space and money.

So, my top ten list, trying to be devoid of too much commercialism and down to the real, true needs:

Hmm, should I count down?  I guess so.

1o.  Baby socks of only one color.  I swear those girls never wore the same pair twice.  I was completely unable to keep up with them.  With Ada I wised up and got only the exact same ones, but about ten pairs. 

9. Cloth diapers and an open mind to look into Elimination Communication— watching your newborn for little wiggly legs and taking her to the sink, instead of wrapping her up in plastic.  Either one will save your wallet and your curbside traffic pick up.

8. A co-sleeper or bedrail to aid in safe co-sleeping (defined as baby in the room, not necessarily in the bed) and the book, the No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley or the Sleep Book by Dr. Sears.  Any books by Dr. Sears, actually.

7. Ideas for food that is healthy yet easy to prepare one handed.  An example:  Chicken thighs and a potato in the oven.  Bake for an hour.  Have a salad mix ready.  You can use tongs for the chicken and never need to wash your hands and there is little clean up or effort on your part.  Cut veggies in the fridge are good snacks, especially with hummus or another healthy dip.  Keep water handy.  Frozen homemade meals, prepared ahead of time, are wonderful if you can swing it.

6.  The right mindset.  You shouldn’t judge yourself and should remember that a messy house is okay for the time being.  It’s okay take care of the important things, like kitchens and bathrooms, and let the other things slide.  It’s okay, nay essential, that you put your needs and your baby’s needs ahead of material things. 

5. A support system.  In our culture, women are often far away from family, and even when family is close, ideas about nursing and baby care and sleeping through the night and all types of things can be, unfortunately, combative and sometimes not helpful.  Hopefully, there is another person there to do some laundry and cook some meals.  Support found through a La Leche League group, a partner who understands the woman’s job for the first three months is to heal herself and nurse her baby or a friend (who is free to help out around the house) can be wonderful.

4. A copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

3.  A baby wrap or sling.  Ada was very colicky, though there were underlying reasons for that, as many of you know, and for a while, she would only nap while being worn.  And an over-exhausted fussy baby is worse than a fussy one.  Also, tt always felt so much safer having her snuggled to my chest than in a carseat or grocery cart.  Not to mention wonderful for her developmet and body heat.

Wraps are expensive, and to decommercialize this even more— here’s the secret, they are ridiculously easy to make, and you can make a wrap even without a sewing machine.  Or there are several very nice ones available now on websites.  I’ve heard very negative things about the business practices of Ergo, a popular choice, but there are many others.  I was definitely a wrap and ring sling girl.  But for the new  mom, wraps have a longer learning curve.  Pouches are easiest, and then things like the Beco, Ergo or ring sling.  I prefer two shouldered and look up the spinal pressure thing of models like the Baby Bjorn.  The others are better options.

3.  A basket with a water bottle, book, the TV clicker and some easy to eat snacks.  It can be carried around with one arm as new momma shuffles from the couch to the bed, and if baby falls asleep on her and she is too exhausted to get up, she’s got what her body and mind needs with her.

2. A doula.  I guess that would be for before baby arrives, but its still on my list.  She was invaluable to me and my husband both.

1.  The number of an LLL Leader and information on local groups.  When Azita was born, I was in tears and pain and felt like I was doing something wrong.  A La Leche League Leader came to my hospital room before Azita was 24 hours old and gave me hope that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, now that I was armed with some information about what was normal for a new breastfeeding pair.  The nurses were of no help at all and made me feel worse.  And yes, the pressure to breastfeed was put there by myself, and no one else, but it was still fiercely important to me, for reasons I couldn’t explain.

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When people hear you are doing Elimination Communication, or raising a ‘diaper free’ baby when the baby is very young, like under a year, they are often amazed and very interested.  Fascinated even, as you explain how you pay attention to little leg squirms after a nap or nursing/bottle session and the baby magically pees.

It seemed to me, after the baby turned 1 year old, like between 1 and 18 months, people’s reactions change to being intimidated, threatened, insecure… I don’t know, but less positive.  More like you are early potty training and pushing your child into something that will harm them.  You know, of course, that your baby and all babies are aware of when they need to eliminate waste and nothing is out of the ordinary.

Then, after 18 months, the praise starts again.  The oh-my-goodness, she’s-not-even-two-yet, you are doing a great job, attitude. Some defensiveness.  But we all know defensiveness comes from the other person’s insecurity, and nothing you did wrong, right?  Like the mom that narrows her eyes and says, “Well that’s because you have girls” and turns on her heels.  Eventhough you didn’t invite the converation.  In fact, you never really mention it to people because it’s normal and routine for you.  But people see the underwear and no diaper, and ask you.  Then they get either positive or negative about it.

So anyway, the most sincerely interested inquiries I get about it are at Ada’s many doctor’s appointments.

I posted here about our first doctor/EC experiance and the ease of getting a pee sample from a 6-month-old, for us.

At the hospital a week and a half ago, the nurses were very intrigued and positive.  I guess they are on their job though, so they aren’t going to snap at me about it! 

But one clearly was uncomfortable without Ada having on a diaper, while the anesthesiologist and doctor didn’t care if she did the surgery naked.  Sometimes I think some people have this idea that a child under two is just a missile waiting to launch pee everywhere.  Like they genuinely don’t realize that kids– that babies control their bladders and don’t just leak pee all the time.  Some kids do do that– but it’s a sign of a food intolerance.

So I told them it was fine to put a diaper on her after she was asleep but that she would get very aggravated if we tried before that.  They did, and she returned to me with a pull-up.  I did think that under the circumstances she wouldn’t be able to think about her bladder and keeping it on was fine.  When I took the pull-up off, about 4 hours after she woke up from her after surgery nap, she had stayed dry the entire time.

Even in her cranky, miserableness, she sat and peed when I cued, at the Whole Foods.  I was so proud of her!  My little diaper-free girl!  It just goes to show, once again, that when given the opportunity, kid’s will control their bladders too.  After all, after surgery, or childbirth, or whatever, do adults just pee on themselves?  I don’t think so.  Not usually.

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So much for detoxing Ada’s little taxed body this week with a strict grain-free diet and lots of fresh veggies. 

I am happy to say she finally started liking my homemade saurkraut, so she is getting good buggies (ie probiotics) in her stomach that way.  Think of yogurt but dairy-free and homemade and cheaper.

But, with relaxing the rules on eating packaged gluten free goods at high risk for cross-contamination, I was getting pretty confidant about my own tolerance levels of gluten.  I wasn’t getting the headaches and other symptoms I’d expected.  I’m fairly sure, through elimination and challenge of foods for Ada, that eggs and/or gluten cause migraines, joint pain and some other stuff for me.

So when I was eating some gluten-free breads and crackers with her that were in shared facilities with wheat, I was feeling alright.  I was surprised.

Then a few nights ago Azita didn’t finish her “Amy’s Meal”… a gluten and dairy free enchilada, that is made on shared equipment with wheat and has tofu in it (soy is widely contaminated with wheat at the field level, I believe).  I decided to finish it for her, since I missed eating them and had been doing okay with the other possibly cross contaminated stuff.  I was also feeling fine and hadn’t reintroduced soy by itself exactly, so it seemed like an okay time to trial.

Well, let me say, the lesson is learned when it comes to the difference between squeaking by okay on stuff made with wheat in the same facility and eating stuff actually on shared equipment. 

Ada’s symptoms:

She peed.  And peed.  And peed.  And peed.  This is where practicing elimination communication really helps you know when a food is affecting your kid in a negative way, by irritating the bladder.  With Azita I just wrote it off as having a “heavy wetter”.  When you do EC you see the patterns and times and amounts and what is really normal or not for your child.

She is red, rashy, uncomfortable ‘down there’– constantly pulling on her underwear.

Very constipated.

Itching the inside of her ear.

Not sleeping well.

My symptoms:

Irritable the next day.  It feels like you have PMS.

Headache for two days.

A huge increase in milk supply– in other words, the return of my over-active-letdown– which led to plugged ducts and mastitis.

I don’t know the mechanism for this, but I can say that many women with too much milk, or over-active letdown, which can make it seem like the baby is getting tummy trouble from the mother’s milk, see a big improvement when they go off of dairy, a common intolerance and allergen.  I think it’s because it stimulates the glands, and milk ducts are glands.  So I seem to have this response with eggs and/or gluten.  Also, one study showed that woman with seasonal allergies have higher rates of mastitis.  So I can only imagine that being intolerant to foods that provoke your immune system might work similarly. 

I don’t know why these symptoms to foods are so much more pronounced now than when I was younger.  But it shows that you can’t know– you can’t write off any food as “Oh I eat it all the time, it can’t be causing me symptoms” because until you don’t eat if for a good while you just don’t know.  I think my body was so bombarded by stuff it didn’t like I couldn’t see the forest for the trees– I just thought headaches every few days were normal, and that I had an overly abundant milk supply– certainly that was better than not enough milk, right?

Once your body knows you are listening, it starts to speak more clearly.

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Quick update on the consumption of fast food french fries:   I’ve gotten sicker from eating baked goods made in a facility shared with wheat/gluten, but I was still a bit affected.  My body still seemed to be trying to get the junk out!  And Ada had a little rashiness and constipation.  And I was irritable as hell Saturday.  You know its a food or chemical reaction when you are trying to be in a good mood but don’t seem to be able to control it.  It helps actually, knowing the reason I am getting upset over silly things.

So it wasn’t terrible, I don’t think we got huge amounts of trace gluten.  I’ve gotten sicker from that, like I said.  Azita was very cranky as well yesterday, coincidence?

Anyway, we are getting ready for another appointment at Duke for Ada the Monday after tomorrow.  Her doctor here has been doing weight checks and is very happy with her progress.  She has hit 21 pounds.  I checked her growth on the World Health Organization’s charts and she was above the 25th percentile, and she used to be below the 7th there, and the 2nd percentile on the doctor’s charts.  The WHO’s charts represent normal infant growth for breastfed infants from with data collected from 6 different countries, I believe.

The doctor’s charts here in the US are typically supplied by formula companies and are not really normal infant growth in my opinion, since they are based on a few thousand primarily formula fed infants in Ohio in the 1970’s (if I’ve got that correct).

Either way, Ada’s doing well.  She has trace little reactions and I wonder if her resistance to napping has to do with food stuff at times.  Yeah, sounds like they wouldn’t be related, but tons, and I  mean TONS, of food allergy moms have found that when their kid is reacting to a food they are wired up.  Or that when they take them off the foods they react to, their ADD/ADHD and school problems disappear.

She has occassionaly rashes, bowel movement issues, lots of pees (a food reaction b/c foods irritate the bladder as the body tries to rid itself of a toxin) and skin bumps but nothing like before.  I got better at pinpointing trace amounts of gluten do to our food being contaminated in factories and fields that use or make wheat products.  For instance, I found a few gluten-intolerants who have issues with chicken or at least the chicken skin, and a few who felt they were reacting to the supposedly gluten free sausages we were eating.  I cut both of those out, and Ada starting gaining weight!

So the foods we have added back in, about once a week at the advice of her allergist:

Avocadoes

Rice (carefully sourced from a company that does not share fields, equipment or factories with wheat)

Potatoes

oranges

all berries (added back just in time for berry season a month or two ago)

fresh corn (corn products still seem to be an issue)

That is all I can think of now.  It’s been really positive lately.

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Two people at the baby fair noticed that Ada wasn’t wearing a diaper.  With just underwear or little leggings on, she looks quite a bit skinnier than most babies walking around.  Funny, her little bottom and thighs look chunky to me, but again, without a diaper the usual noticable bulge isn’t there.

One person asked if I was doing Elimination Communication and knew what it was, and another just asked me if I had potty trained her already.  But both were very positive.  It’s nice when people are positive about a choice that you have made with your parenting that isn’t the norm or that they have never heard of.

When I first heard of raising babies without diapers I pretty much thought it sounded crazy.  It was nice that the lady who had heard of it completely got it– she said “well it’s about communication not potty training, right?”.

A gold star to her, because yes, raising babies diaper free is not about potty training.  I think that is why many prefer the term elimination communication, because it is about communicating with your infant about their waste elimination needs. 

I didn’t really get that it wasn’t like potty training at first… I thought that one of the benefits MUST be that you have a child potty trained much earlier.  But actually, I think, potty training has more to do with the way our toilets are too big for babies… pulling up and down clothes… personal hygience… the mechanics of it.

I know several moms through the yahoo Elimination Communication group— a wonderful resource if you are considering trying EC even part time– whose kids have been sitting on their little potties since they could sit, as early as 5 months.

I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little jealous, since Ada is 16 months and still won’t sit on hers.  She prefers me to hold her above the toilet or potty bowl.  But that is who she is.  And parenting choices, especially EC, are about respecting who your child is.

Many kids signal, do a hand sign or repeat the “ssss” cue for pottying.  Ada responds to the cue by peeing, and has since she was 6 weeks old, when she really caught on, but does not make that cue to tell me when she needs to go.  She may have tried a few times, but I guess she just got used to be picking up on her more subtle cues.

She gets clingy.  Ha.  That is her signal for needing to go!  She wants to be held, out of nowhere, in the middle of playing.  Or she wants to come to me after being happy with her dad.  I’ve heard of other kids who happily eliminate their waste for any caregiver.

But that’s not Ada.  She doesn’t want her dad, and she expects me to read her little mind when she wants up and down and up and down that she needs to use the restroom.

So now I get it.  I get why diaper free is not early potty training.  And, of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With all of her GI issues, believe it or not, her potty habits have been an important part of her telling me how she feels and our communication of when her tummy hurts.  And since peeing frequently is one way that the body rids itself of toxins, I’ve actually been able to understand with her that when she pees 5 times a night as opposed to 1, it is a symptom.

I’d be willing to bet, especially from talking to other moms who EC, that EC helps you pick up on foods that affect your children and be more in tune with their bodies.

So even if she doesn’t use her potty yet, that was so, so very worth the effort.  And the effort evens out so much anyway, I don’t ever spend time worrying about diapers or cleaning up every little inch of mushed up dirty diaper bottoms.  I know you need that visual.

I’m going to take it like I did with Azita.  Show her the potty, continue to talk about it with her.  She’ll start using it, and be out of my arms before I know it.

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It’s funny that you could be happy your child has a gene that puts them at risk for a disease.  But we are.  Certainly we aren’t happy that either of our children have something that makes life hard, but at least we feel like our gut instincts with Ada are right and we are getting some answers.

Yesterday at her first appointment with an allergist at Duke, we found out that Ada does have the DQ2 gene, which puts her at a higher risk for celiac disease.  She also had elevated liver numbers, which could be a sign, but they have to draw blood again to double check, and luckily the allergist didn’t want to do that.  Ada had a rough enough time these days at it is, we’ll check the blood again in 2 months.

Actually, he didn’t want to any blood work or skin testing.  He listened to our whole story, really listened to it, and was with us for nearly 2 hours.  None of her symptoms seem to suggest that she has “true” allergies, meaning that her immune system is provoked.  Those are the allergies that can provoke anaphylaxis.

That doesn’t mean it is any less serious for her to avoid the foods that cause her trouble, probably for her entire life, because celiac disease and gluten intolerance are the kind of food issues that cause lifelong misery, even if it doesn’t get you quickly.

Rather than type it all over again, I’m just going to copy and paste my summary of the appointment that I posted on a discussion group called Foodlab where several moms know me and Ada’s story:

The allergist feels that her issues are most likely cause by gluten.  We showed him the small dots on her back, there was one left from a reaction last week, and he said it was interesting and he’d never seen it, but in a thoughtful, sincere way… not a “well that’s not allergies, you are overreacting, crazy lady” way.  He thinks its probably due to the gluten as well, since there are skin issues for some celiacs.

He was quite surprised at our story and the “red ring” and diaper free baby aspect of what first clued us in, but very, very cool about it.  When I said I cut gluten out on gut instinct he was pretty surprised.

He feels that because of her symptoms, it sounds more like gluten and that she has no true allergies to any of the foods I cut out.  We discussed trace gluten and how it could be why legumes and corn and all this other stuff causes small reactions in her, but nothing like when I ate straight gluten.  He didn’t say “oh yes, trace gluten is it.” But he said that our theory sounds incredibly plausible and even seemed to sincerely be learning from our situation.

If it’s not trace gluten, he said perhaps she has a secondary gut issue that the GI doc can help us figure out.

We told him how she always throws up chicken but not lamb or beef, and he wonders, as we do, if she’s so sensitive to gluten her gut is just having a hard time dealing with certain foods.

He said she may react to some food chemicals, which explains the red spots from raspberry and avocado, but did not dismiss it or the reasons we cut them out.  He just was great about explaining the differences between different types of food reactions. 

I told him I thought I had an egg allergy because they give me migraines, and he said that a true allergy should have an immediate response, but that certainly foods trigger symptoms in people that aren’t IgE mediated.  He didn’t dismiss anything at all, but just explained it and his reasons for not thinking we have “true” allergies.  And the thing is, true allergy, intolerance or whatever you call it, when a food hurts your body, you shouldn’t eat it.

And there are I think 5 or 6 different types of antibodies, IgE, IgG, IgA and etc.  I wonder if because IgG and IgE can be tested for, doesn’t mean the delayed responses and food triggers and thigs like that aren’t affecting the immune system too.

He thinks we should introduce each food we’ve cut out, one a week since Ada’s symptoms are delayed gastro type stuff, and intro them to her, and then after the week I can eat them too (oh sweet rice and potatoes and berries here I come!)

Y’all should have seen his face when I told him that I’ve gained weight on this crazy elimination diet.  He definitely seemed to think she gets the celiac gene from me!  And he thinks I should get an endoscopy too!

So with the scope issue, the GI doctor left him a note that she knows I am against feeding Ada gluten before the endoscopy but she thinks it’s a good idea.  He said he won’t tell us either way, but shared his thoughts on it.

First,  since she is finally gaining weight and doing well, so we might not want to mess with that.  I told him this was my opinion.  But then he said, if treatment sooner rather than later would help, we might want to diagnose sooner rather than later. 

I told him that our thing is that either way we aren’t going to change our treatment—we aren’t going to feed her gluten.  And we want to see from the scope if there is damage from trace gluten or something else, not from gluten, because we know in our hearts that’s the issue.  He seemed to think it made sense.  So we’ll see the GI doc in 2 months and tell her that.

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Somewhere over the past several months I realized that Ada is no longer wearing diapers.  She was communicating her needs to go to the potty with me, and typically went when I took her, so I started putting her in underwear around 10 months old, maybe.  And I’d just take her to pee at the store or wherever we were, like you would if you were traditionally potty learning an older toddler.

But it was kind of gradual and natural, and so it just had to dawn on me one day that she really had turned in to a diaper-free baby.  The transitions for your kids that come easily and naturally really are worth celebrating, because there will be so many things in their life that aren’t as easy.

So when the trip to Charlotte was being planned, it didn’t even occur to me until the last minute if I should take diapers!

I typically call her a diaper free baby, since that gets the point across to people who are surprised when I’m taking a young toddler to the bathroom, but many people also call it Elimination Communication, because it’s not really about potty “training”, it’s about letting your kid communicate a need to you. 

Just like you watch your baby to see when they are hungry or sleepy, you watch them to see when they need to use the bathroom (Ada will squirm and kick her legs), rather than letting them get their waste all next to their skin in diapers.  And I really, really don’t mean that to sound judgemental.  Azita used diapers, and Ada uses them at night.

For the car trip, I put a cloth diaper down under her, but didn’t fasten it around her, to catch anything if we had a miss.  But she didn’t have one.  She held her bladder for 3 or 4 hours.  Which she does normally, but in a car drive situation, I really recognized it.

I think that is one misconception people may have of babies.  They think they are little loaded weapons ready to spray pee every 30 minutes.  It’s just not like that.  She’s been holding her bladder since she was 3 weeks old.  A lot of people that realize my 15 month old is not wearing diapers think that I offer her go like every 15 minutes and that is why we don’t have pee misses.  Or they make comments like “oh she has just trained you rather than you training her.”  I don’t really know what they are trying to say, to be honest with you.

Even with all the good diaper-freeness, I didn’t want any messes in a hotel room bed, and I didn’t want to get up in the middle of the night if she needed to go.   At night at home, I pee her at night when she starts tossing and turning or use a cloth diaper if I know I’m more tired that night.

The awesomest thing happened, seriously.  Totally cool.  I had told Payman I would ask another La Leche League Leader at the Conference if I could have two diapers for the weekend, but I was secretly dreading putting a chemical-laden, dioxin-producing, plastic, moisture-sealing-in disposable on Ada, even for two nights.  She’s got so many sensitivities as it is, and was already rashy from an unfortunate exposure to orange.

The awesome thing was that I was at a parenting conference in which Earth Fare had donated chlorine-free Earth’s Best Diapers for us mommas to use!  Score!!

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